Pod::Usage, pod2usage() - print a usage message from embedded pod documentation


  use Pod::Usage
  my $message_text  = "This text precedes the usage message.";
  my $exit_status   = 2;          ## The exit status to use
  my $verbose_level = 0;          ## The verbose level to use
  my $filehandle    = \*STDERR;   ## The filehandle to write to
  pod2usage( { -message => $message_text ,
               -exitval => $exit_status  ,  
               -verbose => $verbose_level,  
               -output  => $filehandle } );
  pod2usage(   -msg     => $message_text ,
               -exitval => $exit_status  ,  
               -verbose => $verbose_level,  
               -output  => $filehandle   );
  pod2usage(   -verbose => 2,
               -noperldoc => 1  )


pod2usage should be given either a single argument, or a list of arguments corresponding to an associative array (a ``hash''). When a single argument is given, it should correspond to exactly one of the following:

If more than one argument is given then the entire argument list is assumed to be a hash. If a hash is supplied (either as a reference or as a list) it should contain one or more elements with the following keys:


The text of a message to print immediately prior to printing the program's usage message.


The desired exit status to pass to the exit() function. This should be an integer, or else the string ``NOEXIT'' to indicate that control should simply be returned without terminating the invoking process.


The desired level of ``verboseness'' to use when printing the usage message. If the corresponding value is 0, then only the ``SYNOPSIS'' section of the pod documentation is printed. If the corresponding value is 1, then the ``SYNOPSIS'' section, along with any section entitled ``OPTIONS'', ``ARGUMENTS'', or ``OPTIONS AND ARGUMENTS'' is printed. If the corresponding value is 2 or more then the entire manpage is printed.

The special verbosity level 99 requires to also specify the -section parameter; then these sections are extracted (see the Pod::Select manpage) and printed.


A string representing a selection list for sections to be printed when -verbose is set to 99, e.g. "NAME|SYNOPSIS|DESCRIPTION|VERSION".


A reference to a filehandle, or the pathname of a file to which the usage message should be written. The default is \*STDERR unless the exit value is less than 2 (in which case the default is \*STDOUT).


A reference to a filehandle, or the pathname of a file from which the invoking script's pod documentation should be read. It defaults to the file indicated by $0 ($PROGRAM_NAME for users of


A list of directory paths. If the input file does not exist, then it will be searched for in the given directory list (in the order the directories appear in the list). It defaults to the list of directories implied by $ENV{PATH}. The list may be specified either by a reference to an array, or by a string of directory paths which use the same path separator as $ENV{PATH} on your system (e.g., : for Unix, ; for MSWin32 and DOS).


By default, Pod::Usage will call the perldoc manpage when -verbose >= 2 is specified. This does not work well e.g. if the script was packed with the PAR manpage. The -noperldoc option suppresses the external call to the perldoc manpage and uses the simple text formatter (the Pod::Text manpage) to output the POD.


pod2usage will print a usage message for the invoking script (using its embedded pod documentation) and then exit the script with the desired exit status. The usage message printed may have any one of three levels of ``verboseness'': If the verbose level is 0, then only a synopsis is printed. If the verbose level is 1, then the synopsis is printed along with a description (if present) of the command line options and arguments. If the verbose level is 2, then the entire manual page is printed.

Unless they are explicitly specified, the default values for the exit status, verbose level, and output stream to use are determined as follows:

Although the above may seem a bit confusing at first, it generally does ``the right thing'' in most situations. This determination of the default values to use is based upon the following typical Unix conventions:

pod2usage doesn't force the above conventions upon you, but it will use them by default if you don't expressly tell it to do otherwise. The ability of pod2usage() to accept a single number or a string makes it convenient to use as an innocent looking error message handling function:

    use Pod::Usage;
    use Getopt::Long;
    ## Parse options
    GetOptions("help", "man", "flag1")  ||  pod2usage(2);
    pod2usage(1)  if ($opt_help);
    pod2usage(-verbose => 2)  if ($opt_man);
    ## Check for too many filenames
    pod2usage("$0: Too many files given.\n")  if (@ARGV > 1);

Some user's however may feel that the above ``economy of expression'' is not particularly readable nor consistent and may instead choose to do something more like the following:

    use Pod::Usage;
    use Getopt::Long;
    ## Parse options
    GetOptions("help", "man", "flag1")  ||  pod2usage(-verbose => 0);
    pod2usage(-verbose => 1)  if ($opt_help);
    pod2usage(-verbose => 2)  if ($opt_man);
    ## Check for too many filenames
    pod2usage(-verbose => 2, -message => "$0: Too many files given.\n")
        if (@ARGV > 1);

As with all things in Perl, there's more than one way to do it, and pod2usage() adheres to this philosophy. If you are interested in seeing a number of different ways to invoke pod2usage (although by no means exhaustive), please refer to EXAMPLES.


Each of the following invocations of pod2usage() will print just the ``SYNOPSIS'' section to STDERR and will exit with a status of 2:

    pod2usage(-verbose => 0);
    pod2usage(-exitval => 2);
    pod2usage({-exitval => 2, -output => \*STDERR});
    pod2usage({-verbose => 0, -output  => \*STDERR});
    pod2usage(-exitval => 2, -verbose => 0);
    pod2usage(-exitval => 2, -verbose => 0, -output => \*STDERR);

Each of the following invocations of pod2usage() will print a message of ``Syntax error.'' (followed by a newline) to STDERR, immediately followed by just the ``SYNOPSIS'' section (also printed to STDERR) and will exit with a status of 2:

    pod2usage("Syntax error.");
    pod2usage(-message => "Syntax error.", -verbose => 0);
    pod2usage(-msg  => "Syntax error.", -exitval => 2);
    pod2usage({-msg => "Syntax error.", -exitval => 2, -output => \*STDERR});
    pod2usage({-msg => "Syntax error.", -verbose => 0, -output => \*STDERR});
    pod2usage(-msg  => "Syntax error.", -exitval => 2, -verbose => 0);
    pod2usage(-message => "Syntax error.",
              -exitval => 2,
              -verbose => 0,
              -output  => \*STDERR);

Each of the following invocations of pod2usage() will print the ``SYNOPSIS'' section and any ``OPTIONS'' and/or ``ARGUMENTS'' sections to STDOUT and will exit with a status of 1:

    pod2usage(-verbose => 1);
    pod2usage(-exitval => 1);
    pod2usage({-exitval => 1, -output => \*STDOUT});
    pod2usage({-verbose => 1, -output => \*STDOUT});
    pod2usage(-exitval => 1, -verbose => 1);
    pod2usage(-exitval => 1, -verbose => 1, -output => \*STDOUT});

Each of the following invocations of pod2usage() will print the entire manual page to STDOUT and will exit with a status of 1:

    pod2usage(-verbose  => 2);
    pod2usage({-verbose => 2, -output => \*STDOUT});
    pod2usage(-exitval  => 1, -verbose => 2);
    pod2usage({-exitval => 1, -verbose => 2, -output => \*STDOUT});

Recommended Use

Most scripts should print some type of usage message to STDERR when a command line syntax error is detected. They should also provide an option (usually -H or -help) to print a (possibly more verbose) usage message to STDOUT. Some scripts may even wish to go so far as to provide a means of printing their complete documentation to STDOUT (perhaps by allowing a -man option). The following complete example uses Pod::Usage in combination with Getopt::Long to do all of these things:

    use Getopt::Long;
    use Pod::Usage;
    my $man = 0;
    my $help = 0;
    ## Parse options and print usage if there is a syntax error,
    ## or if usage was explicitly requested.
    GetOptions('help|?' => \$help, man => \$man) or pod2usage(2);
    pod2usage(1) if $help;
    pod2usage(-verbose => 2) if $man;
    ## If no arguments were given, then allow STDIN to be used only
    ## if it's not connected to a terminal (otherwise print usage)
    pod2usage("$0: No files given.")  if ((@ARGV == 0) && (-t STDIN));
    =head1 NAME
    sample - Using GetOpt::Long and Pod::Usage
    =head1 SYNOPSIS
    sample [options] [file ...]
       -help            brief help message
       -man             full documentation
    =head1 OPTIONS
    =over 8
    =item B<-help>
    Print a brief help message and exits.
    =item B<-man>
    Prints the manual page and exits.
    =head1 DESCRIPTION
    B<This program> will read the given input file(s) and do something
    useful with the contents thereof.


By default, pod2usage() will use $0 as the path to the pod input file. Unfortunately, not all systems on which Perl runs will set $0 properly (although if $0 isn't found, pod2usage() will search $ENV{PATH} or else the list specified by the -pathlist option). If this is the case for your system, you may need to explicitly specify the path to the pod docs for the invoking script using something similar to the following:

    pod2usage(-exitval => 2, -input => "/path/to/your/pod/docs");

In the pathological case that a script is called via a relative path and the script itself changes the current working directory (see chdir in the perlfunc manpage) before calling pod2usage, Pod::Usage will fail even on robust platforms. Don't do that.


Please report bugs using

Brad Appleton <>

Based on code for Pod::Text::pod2text() written by Tom Christiansen <>


Steven McDougall <> for his help and patience with re-writing this manpage.